So I ran the 2016 Chester Marathon and yep, that’s me standing in the starting line in front of the 3:30 pacers.
Here’s how it went…
My alarm went off at 6:00am and I woke to the realisation that I did in fact manage to get some sleep.
Cup of tea after a glass of water at 10 past 6. A bowl of porridge at half past.
Chester is around a 30min drive from home and we got to the race course car park before 8am. Parked up and then I went to the late entry desk to get my race number. Due to a niggly hamstring I’d held off paying for the event (£51) until as late as I could.
Back to the car for a cup of coffee out of the flask and a bagel with strawberry jam. Then to get ready. Vaseline up and tape-up my nipples. Pin my number on. A couple of old t-shirts over my running top to keep warm before the start.
Weather was beautiful. A bit chilly for me at the start but no wind and bright sunshine. I’d been watching the forecast all week and they’d actually got it spot on.
Walk to start line and toilets eating half a banana. Queue for toilets, which seemed to take an age. Start fretting that I’m going to be late for the start. But just got to the 3:15 group in the starting line with couple of minutes to spare. Whip off the old tee shirts that live to fight another day as I handed them to my wife.
Said bye to my wife and daughters and as the Chester Town Crier called the start I walked up to the start line with all the other runners. Pressed start on the Strava app on my phone and pressed the start button on my Garmin. Here we go!
I was expecting the first mile to be boxed in as we ran around the race course so I was slightly surprised to hear Strava announce the first split of 7:30. Haven’t lost too many seconds in the first mile but have been held back from starting way too fast. Good.
The next couple of miles find yourself asking how you’re feeling. How are my legs feeling? What’s my breathing like? Am I going too fast? Not fast enough? Am I warm enough?
As the first few miles pass there’s a bit more space which is good. Still checking that everything feels okay. Split times are good but pace feels alright. Mile 6 approaches and I start to get confirmation of how things are going. 10k is the first recorded split. You already know how it’s going from Strava but a glance at your watch is confirmation that everything is OK.
I take the first of two gels at around mile 9. I don’t like gels and don’t usually take them on long training runs. I’ve got one with me along with a 500ml bottle of water that I also carry from the start. I’ll chuck it later at a water station before I pick one up.
I can feel a toe on my right foot. There’s definitely at least one toe nail in trouble.
Around mile 10 I find it a little hard going. This has happened to me before so I don’t worry unduly. A glance at my current pace (I run with a foot pod to get a more accurate idea of pace) and I can see that I’m running at 7:10 pace. That’s up on a target pace of 7:25.
I start thinking about the half way mark. Before that there’s a couple of miles to do. Pace pretty much constant. I’m still in proximity of other runners who I’ve decided are running the same pace as me. Cross the 20k road sensor but I don’t take any notice of the time. A few more minutes and I reach half way. 1:35 I think. Not too bad and I’m feeling alright.
Having ran the event the previous year I knew that 13 to 14 was slightly uphill. So no surprise that the split was slower at 7:26. Next split I expected to be faster and it was at 7:05.
A bit slower at 16 with a split of 7:22. This is the point at which I evidently slowed as my splits from mile 16 onwards are slower.
But I’m still feeling alright and am realizing that I’m on for a PB if I can keep it going.
There’s a couple of small hills coming up that I remember as I reach them. Keep telling myself to keep going.
Take a second and final gel from the feed station at 19m.
Hit 20m and tell myself it’s just a 10k to go. Feeling it now but 21 and 22 splits are passed with okay splits. As I hit 21 I try to do some mental maths. 5.2m to go. I tell myself that even if I run at 10min/mile pace that’s 50 minutes. I can do that surely, so I’m on for a PB here.
My legs are feeling it now. I’m trying to ignore the stiffness in the back of my right leg. My feet are aching too.
Then I lost it mentally. Between 22 and 23 I struggled. I lost concentration and walked. It’s also a slightly slower section of the route so that doesn’t help. Looking at the split time I lost a minute as the split time was 8:36. Why did I succumb to walking?
Must work on my mental approach.
The first split over 8mins. Talked to myself. Get myself back on track. Still on for a good time, keep it going.
I was trying to work out the maths to calculate a finish time. Sub 3:20 was definitely on, as was a PB.
3 miles to go with a testing climb within the next mile. Then the 3:15 pacers overtook me. I’d passed them very early in the race and not given them another thought.
The climb between 23 and 24 was hard and I briefly walked again. But when I got to the top I knew I could hang on to the finish. That hill is positioned in a cruel place.
Heading into the centre of Chester now. Along the banks of the River Dee, across the end of the bridge that I crossed nearly 3 hours earlier and wait to get back on the race course.
Spotted my wife and daughters waiting for me. Gave them the thumbs-up. One last effort up to the finish line. Stopped my Garmin as I cross the line.
3:15:39 exactly the same as the official finish time. A PB!
A bit disappointed that because I walked I missed a sub 3:15 but overall I’m really pleased. A decent whack off my previous PB of 3:19:05. And a sub 3:20 means I should qualify for a good for age entry for the London Marathon in 2018. The finishers goody bag included a KitKat Chunky …I like those 🙂
Here are my mile splits in Strava (not totally accurate as phone stopped recording when I walked).
Here’s my official race result.
Find out more about and enter the Chester Marathon (and their half marathon) at Active Leisure Events.